Friday, May 11, 2007
Personal Aside: Why Im Soft on Eddie and Why I Think Hell Beat the Rap.
The indictment of Eddie Vrdolyak on one count of mail fraud, two counts of wire fraud and one count of bribery in an alleged scheme to collect kickbacks in exchange for sale of Gold Coast property means that hes still officially innocent and thats okay by me. Most of the papers say this is his first indictment but thats not true. One reason why hes a pinwheel of color in Chicago politics is that when he was a law student he defended himself on a charge of manslaughter and beat the odds. Im pulling for him this time as well.
Why, do you ask, am I soft on Eddie whom Ive known for many years? First, because he is not and has never been a liberal, his demeanor has been free of self-eulogization; hes been non-hypocritical; he presents no bluster, no bravado associated with the worst cons in the gameliberals whose eyes are raised to heaven as they pretend that theyre only interested in serving the pee-pul. Thats because Eddie not being a liberal is as straight-talking, as tough, as quippy as seemingly no one else in the political generation t hat has followed his. But that doesnt mean hes not compassionate. Im not at liberty to tell you all the good things hes done for people who cannot pay him backgood things he did without any hope of recompense things he sloughs off.
Secondand youll have to take my word for thisbecause hes an intellectual, an idealist without illusions. Ive known him for many years, have talked with him often including just this Monday when I visited his office on a matter that had no earthly benefit, use or relevance to him. For one thing, hes as unlike another Eddie as its possible to be and I count that a great asset. This Eddie grew up in South Chicago and he hasnt left it hasnt regarded himself with awe or surveyed his own greatness. His father had a tavern for fifty-one years, an immigrant from Dalmatia in Yugoslavia, the place his mother came from. Old people in the neighborhood still think of him as Petes boy and hes proud of that. He went to a seminary in the first three years of high school, went to St. Josephs College in Renssalaer, Indiana and then to law school. Law schools an interesting story. Eddie won a scholarship full-time to Harvard on the basis of superb grades. He turned it down in favor of a scholarship to the University of Chicago so that he could be around to tend bar for his Dad who needed him.
The other Eddie, if he had had a chance to go to Harvard, would have taken it in a minute, would have come back, never seeing his old mans tavern again but to cite his comeuppance to his Harvard fellows with his nose up higher than it is now. As it is when that other Eddie strides up to Communion at St. Peters late afternoons in Lent immaculately attired with flowing green tie and white hair that can be seen even if the lights go out its like he has agreed to consult with God as a lawyer gives obligatory time to a client. Not my Eddie. Where do I get the idealist without illusions part? I have spent more than a half century talking to politicians and other types poets, cops even some un-canonized saints in two states and D. C. I ask them different things things other than issues or politics because I know how most of themnot all--can twist and turn.
I once asked Eddie as we rode along in a car (him driving): what are the basic inclinations of man? Can you imagine if I asked George Ryan that or the other Eddie or Rod Blagojevich? Or Richard M. Daley? Or Mike Madigan? Or Emil Jones? Or Todd Stroger? Or Forrest Claypool? Or the Reverend Dick Simpson?
Eddie said, what is this? and looked at me. No, Eddie, I said: youve been around, youve lived: Ill ask againwhat are the basic inclinations of man?
Well, he said, looking out the window, the first is to seek the good.
His highest good which is eternal happiness.
Yeah. To preserve himself in existence.
Yeah, to preserve the speciesthat is to reproduce himself.
Is that it?
Almost. Then to live in community with other men.
Is that it?
Yeahno, wait. To use his intellect and will to know the truth because there is an absolute truth, not what you think is truth or what I think to know the truth and thereby make his own decisions.
Why are they put into human nature, Eddie?
Huh? By God, you dumbbell!
What you just described is known as what?
Its known as what?
Now you got me.
Its known as Natural Law. Youre a Natural Law man, Ed!
Of course! Enough already. Were almost there. Shut up and let me find a parking place.
I dont know anything about the charges but I think that in the end I mean in the end where we all have to end up hell come out all right.
All the same, Ill be praying for you, Eddie.